About the Demblin Way of Life
(Excerpted from a Newspaper The Observer. Published in Demblin on
December 27, 1933, in honor of the journey to Palestine of Benyamin Zilberman.
Edited by Zalman Orlovsky, Yosef Gelibter and Yoneh Borstein.)
(by a Demblin Clothing Merchant)
It's 9 o'clock in the morning. I open up my store and there's a customer.
Good morning, we need a donation. In about 10 minutes I open the
door. We need a donation. We're 2 people here and we need
something. Very soon thereafter, 2 ragged looking Jewish women come in
and say, For a really hungry Jewish family, you have to help us
out. Not 5 minutes go by, I open the door quickly and 2 Jews out of
breath come in, We need a donation for a ticket for a German Jewish
refugee, but you've got to do it fast, because the train is pulling out right
now. That's the way it goes all day. A list of good causes: patient
visits, hospital fund, house for putting up strangers, book repair, synagogue,
meals on the Sabbath
Reb Meir comes in with a delegation an he's got to
raise money for the bath house.
Now it's 5 o'clock in the afternoon and I've just managed to take 10 minutes to
have a little something to eat. When I come back the tax collector is waiting
Good evening, let me see your tax form. It seems like it's time already.
You know what I'm talking about,
Believe me, I answer, I would take you home, but the tall guy
in the fur coat, the tax collector, was just here and cleaned me out just 5
minutes ago. I had to borrow a few dollars to be able to pay him off.
The guy did not close the door. On the contrary, Good evening, please
make a down payment for this tax, my dear lady, of a penny. The tall guy sat
himself down at this point and wrote for 10 minutes and left me a bill with the
remark get busy and left.
Undoubtedly I would have been able to have 10 more customers, all of them
asking for some kind of charity and 5 different tax collectors. But, hearing
the whistle of the police, I had to close the doors quickly because I was
afraid of getting a summons.
Grabbed by the Hand
A Demblin boy read a Hebrew book.
A Demblin girl made a date with a Demblin boy.
This little flower drew the first pension from the community. This person
The Demblin ritual butcher was caught slaughtering animals in the
The Demblin Rabbi Shlit was caught making a judgment on Jewish law which people
had brought to him, and his wife didn't collect the fee for it.
A prize of 500 zlotys to anybody who can find the secretary of the Jewish
community in his office at any time from 9 in the morning until 2 in the
afternoon. And see the President about this.
A prize of 100 zlotys to the speaker from the Zionist group who doesn't curse
A prize of 200 zlotys to the pioneer who spends 3 months on a Kibbutz and
doesn't take 6 leaves of absence.
A prize of a 100 zlotys for the delivery person of the newspaper if once in a
whole week they bring the newspaper.
A worthless ship's ticket for the pioneer who will say that he has traveling
expenses to go to Israel on his own.
A prize of 50 zlotys for the person who can go to the Rabbi's office during the
day and not find him asleep.
A prize of 500 zlotys for the person who can get Yankel Feigenboim a job.
The person Elenblum, in his speech about the budget of the Jewish Council
greatly praised the activity of the president
Sh. N. Luxemburg.
[Actual copy of the newspaper]
The Zionist, L. L. was seen at a Zionist lecture.
The pioneers Shlome Rubenstein and Ali Feigenboim, this week looked for a
The Rabbi's wife this Friday wasn't able to get 2 zlotys from Shemeryle.
A pioneer this week traveled to Palestine and had traveling expenses.
The pioneer got a little drunk and began to scream out I will be
The Demblin Jewish Council began to circulate its announcements in Hebrew as
The Demblin Rabbi Shilt gave a talk and didn't refer to the psalms once.
Whe a pioneer turned to the Jewish Council for a subsidy of 1200 zlotys, the
council cane back and gave him 2400 zlotys.
A good, well run business to provide meals for the afternoon meal and havdala
at the eastern wall of our synagogue. Attention, this business is free of taxes
and go see about it to the pennant.
All ready to be taken over, a very well run business with an apartment and
bathroom and an excellent clientele, see about it through Mendel F.
We are looking for a Shames to wake the Rabbi up. See about this through the
The Jews of Demblin until the Holocaust
by Fidelis Stamphian / Demblin-Zayejeje
The author of this work is a Pole who lives in a suburb of Demblin, Zayejeje.
When the editors of our book turned to the city officials in Demblin about
supplying certain materials for the book an answer came that Stamphian was
especially designated to take over this matter. Mr. Stamphian did not
disappoint us. He sent us for the book a great deal of historical material
about the city and about Jewish life there. But the most important thing that
this gentile did was to send us tens of pictures of Jewish families in Demblin
before the War as well as photographs of societal significance of that epic.
The book committee and editor are not in agreement with all the facts,
conclusions and valuations that Mr. Stamphian makes concerning Jewish life,
especially in the years between 1914 an 1939, but they have not changed the
text, leaving the final conclusions to the readers and the future historians.
About the destruction of Demblin's Jewry, we have published Stamphian's work in
Hebrew in a section called Holocaust and Struggle.
The History of Demblin
The name Demblin comes from the great number of oak trees [Dem means oak],
which grow in the whole area near where the Wieprz flows into the Vistula.
The growth of Demblin is described in a work by Yan Chayadlo called
Generations Speak, in the first issue, 1959. He backs up with
various documents from the descriptions in the 12
Volume written by the priest, Yevim Fredereich Bistjitsky, who was in an
office of the Parish of Stenjitza. He lived at the end of the 18
The King Vladislav Lokyetek gave Demblin as an eternal gift, to the Knight of
Yeshkovitch for his services to the King. In that time Demblin was a little
courtyard with a few little houses of the peasants who were in service to the
Knight. The Knight built a very luxurious court to replace the old courtyard,
enlarging the farm and imprisoning prisoners of war.
In the 15
century, the area of Demblin was in the possession of the Tarnovsky's. They
built Demblin up and in the neighboring Bobrownik they established a church.
In the 16
century Demblin was turned over to the Menishek family and remained in their
possession until the year 1806.
In 1726, the Demblin area became the property of Count Yozef Vandalis Menishek,
Poland's crown Marshall and the possessor of a magnatishen hoif [couldn't
Demblin can thank Count Menishek for its blossoming which happened during the
second half of the 18
century in the epic of the Renaissance. Demblin was built up and a very
elegant and impressive court was established.
This elegant residence in Demblin was built by the famous architect of Kaiser
August II of Saxony, Antony Fontan, and thereafter by his son Yacov.
Further work to make this elegant residence more beautiful was carried out by
Yan Karol Menishek and his son Michael Yejy, who had taken on the position of
the major secretary for the crown and from the year 1781 he was the president
of the commission for the national education. Michael Yejy Menishek, in 1780,
brought to Demblin the chief architect of the King Stanislaw August Poniatovsky
Dominic Merliniyeg. This was with the help of the King himself, who
wanted for his niece Ursula, of the Zamoyisky family, the wife of the last of
the Menishek's, to build a palace similar to the Lajenkis palace in Warsaw.
The Demblin palace was covered on the outside with carvings, the floors were
raised and the hall was made much wider and bigger, the outer appearance of the
palace was made more beautiful with a very elegant gate and the two towers, one
of which stands until today as well as a beautiful park which was laid out by
the famous architect and planner Shuch. On the little island in the pond a very
impressive mausoleum was built, following the example of the one at the
Lajenkis palace in Warsaw. Demblin became a center for modernism and culture.
The Count Menishek, one of the first in Poland, in the month of May, 1783,
installed a lightening rod at his residence which was at that time called a
conductor and this was after the example of the American scholar and politician
Benjamin Franklin. The supervision of the installation of the lightning rod was
given to the priest, Y. F. Bistjitzky, who was the court astronomer of
Stanislaw August Poniatovsky. He immortalized all of this in his descriptions
The last owner of Demblin from the Menishek family, Yejy-Michael, was allied
with the traitor to the people, the so called Tagovitze. He
belonged to the circle around the Czarina, Yekaterina II, and he conducted a
secret espionage for the Czarist regime. He died in 1806 with the shameful
reputation of being a traitor to his own land and people.
The daughter of Yejy-Michael, Paulina-Konstantzye married Antony Yablonsky and
for her dowry presented him with Demblin.
The prince Antony Yablonsky, for his part in the Dekabrish conspiracy, was
arrested and sent to Saratov Gubernia in Russia. The princess
Paulina-Konstantzye followed her husband into exile.
For the next 10 years the Demblin palace was empty. In the early days of the
owners of Princess Yablonsky, a short sort of rebirth occurred but the palace
never returned to its former glory.
In 1836, the princess Yablonsky sold her possession and Demblin came under
authority of the Russian regime.
In 1830, the November rebellion broke out which was crushed in a bloody manner
in 1831. The person who had responsibility for the crushing of this uprising
was General Ivan Paskevitch, who was appointed the Czar's representative in the
Polish Kingdom and received the title of the Prince of Warsaw. In 1842, Czar
Nikolai I presented Paskevitch with Demblin which constituted the farms:
Demblin, Podviyejviya, Vimislov, Borove, Matige and Borovine. The territory of
which this constituted was made up of 12,000 acres and the largest part of the
territory was forest.
At the moment that the Prince Paskevitch took over Demblin, its long decline
began, until the change of the name Demblin to Ivanover.
The composition of the area took in the following settlements: Miyejviyontska,
Ritshietz, Klestshuvke, Mostshanka, New-Demblin, Lason, Sendovitch, Niyebjegov,
Niyetshietz, Golomb, Boruv, Balton, Vulka Golembska and the settlement of
Borovnik and Irena.
In the era of Prince Paskevitch the growth of Irena was established in 1854.
The name comes from Paskevitch's wife Irena. The same applies to the little
river that flows there and carries the name of Irena as well.
In 1842, according to an order of the Czar, the creation of the town of
Modzjitz began at the confluence of the Wieprz and the Vitula and a fortress
was built which was designed to create a sense of fear and awe in the whole
district and thus discourage any kind of rebellion or mutiny.
The newly created fortress, at the Czar's order, was named Ivangorod (this time
it was named for Field Marshal Ivan Paskevitch), the same name was given to the
train station and the train line over the Vistula bridge.
While building the fortress, a lot of crafts people as well as unskilled
laborers were employed who had settled in Demblin. At the same time as the
workers arrived, Jews came, and they opened supply stores. After that came
artisans. Thus, one can establish the beginnings of the Jewish presence when
the construction of the fortress began, and not the changing of Demblin into
In the year 1881, Irena had 2,309 inhabitants in 96 wooden houses. Irena then
also had a town council, a loan and savings bank, a postal office, a pharmacy,
a doctor, a steam mill, a brewery for normal beer, a liquor warehouse, three
taverns, and among them were the old inns in Bobrownik which were run by Jewish
families, and also one small school in Bobrownik. In the general population
Jews were included, but their exact count is not known.
The composition of the Irena district took in Demblin, Borovnik, Grombetshizne,
Kamelonke, Klestshuvke, Krasnogline, Krokovaska, Lason, Masov, Melinkov,
Miyejviontshke, Mostshanke, Podviyejviya, Ritsshitch, Sendovitch and Zadzare.
Before the establishment of Irena, Jews had previously lived in Bobrownik. A
sign of this is the cemetery in Bobrownik where many people were buried from
Bobrownik, Stenjitz and later from Irena.
In 1863 the January uprising broke out. According to Yan Skotnitsky, the owner
of Bobrownik, the inhabitants of the Irena district took part in the uprising.
Some of them fought in the ranks of the rebels, others were engaged in the
tasks of gathering news and intelligence and passing that on to the active
Field Marshall Ivan Paskevitch lived in Demblin. He was the appointed
representative of the Czar, so it was from him and through him that all
important orders passed. Among those who served the Field Marshall were the men
who were, body and soul, dedicated to the uprising. Theses people overheard the
consultations of the Field Marshall and his assistants and they looked over at
the correspondence and they wrote down important bits of intelligence in order
to pass them on the Polish rebels.
Within the Demblin palace those who sympathized with the uprising organized a
little postal system which operated with the greatest of secrecy and
conspiracy. Nobody knew who brought the mail into the palace and who got it out.
In Bobrownik, a Jewish family by the name of Motek lived who provided various
kinds of products to the palace, such as fish and butter. The Field Marshall
knew Motek personally and was very fond of him in his role as a supplier Motek
had free access into the palace. The directors of the uprising had a conference
with Motek and entrusted him with the office of being a messenger and a
collector of intelligence in this little spy system of espionage mail from
Bobrownik to the palace and back. Together with the fish and butter Motek
supplied, he brought in and took out the mail. The whole system of hiding this
correspondence was devised with a great deal of skill and efficiency.
In a corridor of the Demblin palace the garments of the Field Marshall were
always hanging summer and winter clothes. Motek devised a plan whereby
the mail in the palace which arrived in the winter, would be put into the
summer clothes and in summer, in the pockets of the winter overcoats. This was
the best organized mail system of all those involved in the rebellion. Thanks
to the daring and devotion of Motek, the rebel units were never defeated.
Once there was a bit of intelligence about a transport of money from
Petersburg, in order to take care of the expenses of the treasury at the
fortress. Motek passed this information onto the rebels who lay in wait in the
forest by Jejin, they killed the people who were in the carriages delivering
this, and took the money. It was a great amount in a trunk, and that money
greatly helped the rebels.
After the failure of the rebellion, Field Marshall Paskevitch moved out of the
palace at Demblin to his residence in Homel, along with all that had artistic
worth. He even moved out the furniture, the plaques with the coat of arms of
the various owners, and the carvings which embellished the front of the palace.
After the death of Field Marshal Paskevitch, Demblin was inherited by his son
Fiodore. Fiodore was not in agreement with his father's politics, as a matter
of fact he had sympathy for the Poles and sincerely felt for them in their
oppressed state. He didn't want to live anymore in the palace at Demblin with
the complaint that from every corner the wrongs done to the Polish people were
staring out at him.
Fiodore Paskevitch dedicated himself to the service of the Czar and was called
to the Czar's private circle as a personal assistant to Alexander III. He
received this job as a result of his father's service.
The Demblin palace stood empty. It had been vandalized and emptied of
everything of value. The loss of the lovely appearance of the palace quickly
went to ruin as well as the park nearby which had become overgrown and wild.
But the total ruin of the palace was accomplished in the First World War. While
the palace was rotting away, Irena continued to grow. The new houses that were
being built and the increase in the population occurred as a result of the
growth of the garrison in the Demblin fortress. Along with that came an
increase and development in trade and industry. The Jewish population, a
dynamic, hard working and thrifty one, increased its wealth quickly and the
money that was being earned was translated into buying of new land and the
building of new houses.
Before the outbreak of the First World War, Irena was already a big community.
The Rynek was established with beautiful houses, a beautiful city hall and
wooden structures which housed businesses and dwellings. The industry
developed, workshops were established for tailors, shoemakers, and blacksmiths.
People came to Demblin from other settlements. The settlements of Bobrownik and
Stenjitz were almost completely emptied of Jews. Jews from Gniveshov and Ryki
came as well.
With the growth of the population, a quick enlargement of the town occurred.
New streets were built, like Okulna, which encircled the Rynek on the north
side. The Senatorske (which came from Rynek from the north side to Okulna),
Potshove and Warshavsky street which ran from west to east. The new
streets had more structures, stable and with walls, one story houses were built
on Okulna and Warshavsky street. Industrial enterprises were established like a
sawmill and a big carpentry shop, which belonged to Jews.
With the growth of the population and its needs, the religious life of the Jews
developed. On Okulna street a ritual bath and a synagogue and study hall were
built. The synagogue was saved from destruction but the ritual bath was
destroyed. On Warshavsky street a school was established where Jewish children
learned as well. Doctors, dentists and teachers set up shop. The Jews lived at
peace with the Polish population, they took an active part in the building up
and in the administration of their town. Jews were council people, they
collected taxes to build streets and the Rynek.
Demblin got cobbled streets with electric lights.
Irena possessed 5,000 inhabitants, half of whom were Jews.
Irena lived a full life not sensing that on the horizon a storm was moving
which was to break out in the First World War.
In the First World War
The outbreak of the First World War found the Jews in Irena living mainly on
both sides of Okulna street, Senatorske and Potchove and on the Rynek. Some
Jewish houses were also to be found on Warshavsky street, especially on the
north side of it, up to the Irena river.
On the Rynek there was also a building where the town offices were, now one can
find there the directorship of the local national council. The Rynek was used
as a market place every Wednesday, when there was a big fair. There the
peasants' wagons stood with products to sell and there garments and other kinds
of merchandise were set out to be sold. The less important market day was on
The Jews who lived in Irena in those days were mainly occupied with business.
They also had a tailor, shoe making, carpenter, and blacksmith workshops and
others. At that time in Irena there were about 3,000 Jews living.
The concentration of this great number of Jews created favorable circumstances
for the development of their religious and educational life. Thus, even before
the First World War, a school was established on Okulna street and a heder was
established on Senatorska where Hebrew language was taught. The school was
burned down by the Germans as soon as they came into the town in September
1939. Now a city bath is located where the school was. The wooden building that
housed the Senatorska heder was destroyed together with the other buildings.
Favorable circumstances contributed to the development of Irena as well as to
the growth and well being of the Jewish population.
The first days of the War did not shatter the normal life of the town, the War
was coming from some place very distant. From the secure life that people had
in Irena, people didn't feel threatened, especially because of the enormous
fortress which had been developed to protect them. Trade and industry continued
to flourish. The well being of the inhabitants grew.
From the left side of the Vistula, closer to the front, Jewish and Polish
refugees began to arrive in Irena. They brought with them only their valuables,
things that they could get money for. They needed places to stay and food to
eat. In exchange for money, they could get whatever they needed in town. But
this little period didn't last very long.
In the second half of 1915, the Germans took Demblin. The change of money made
everybody feel good. The official currency was the German mark, but the
currency of the street was the ruble. This was not very good for business
because the marks were not in circulation and for rubles one was not able to
get fresh merchandise. The same was true for industry because of a lack of raw
material. In 1916, Demblin went over into the hands of the Austrians. From then
on craft and business practically died in the town.
The population of Irena suffered a lack of food, clothing, coal, and soap.
Those who felt it the worse were the poor, but the rich suffered as well. The
unending search of the population which lacked food and other necessities
brought about epidemics. In the beginning there was typhoid fever, and during
autumn and winter, typhus. The epidemics destroyed many families. Daily there
were funerals. Whole families died. The influenza stopped with the arrival of
the really cold weather, but typhus, for many years thereafter, was a threat to
In 1918, Poland became independent. A new spirit entered the population of
Regardless of the wounds that they'd received, the population of Irena began to
rebuild their lives with hope and belief in a better tomorrow as they began to
build their new nation.
The War, hunger and sickness had struck the Jewish population hard so that
after the War, the number of Jews was only 1.5 thousand.
The Jewish population, always hard working and thrifty, energetically worked to
rebuild business which had been destroyed. Everyday another store would reopen.
Within there were empty shelves, but that didn't last long. After awhile
merchandise began to appear. On everybody's lips was a smile of happiness that
they had made it through the hardest times. The stores and workshops were
really open now, but the trade conditions still weren't really that favorable.
The young Polish nation was not capable yet of producing the raw materials and
merchandise that were needed by its crafts people and business people. It was
quite chaotic. From 1921 to 1923, there was a devaluation of the mark and the
prices skyrocketed. The worth of money dropped from hour to hour. The military
and other officials would get their salaries paid several times in a month, but
that didn't help either.
[See PHOTO=A13 at the end of Section A]
A peasant would sell a cow today, hide the money, and then the next day he
couldn't afford to even buy a sheep with the money. Just as fast as trade had
expanded did it collapse. Stores closed again and once again Irena went through
a very hard period. The year 1922 arrived. The fortress in Demblin was full of
military personnel. Within her walls was stationed the 15
Infantry Regiment. The train line activity was reinvigorated. Within the
grounds of the old Demblin palace, they began to build structures for what
became the flight school. Landless peasants came to settle in Irena. Together
with Poles came Jews. The arrival of the military and the growth of the
population were a sign of better days.
In 1925 Demblin became the sight of an officer school for fliers. The garrison
got bigger. Soldiers, officers and non commissioned officers, came. They were
well paid, which helped to renew the commerce.
The favorable conditions and the quick increase in trade influenced the growth
of the Jewish population to such an extent that the wounds of the War were
quickly healed. The number of Jews grew to 4,500, that was 54% of the overall
population of the district of Irena.
The quick building up and the development of Irena was thanks to the favorable
geographic situation of Demblin, because the intersection of the train lines
from the south to the north and from the east to the west, were the roads used
for war. The transportation of goods along the Vistula and the surrounding
rivers to Warsaw was the cheapest route of communication.
In the 1930's Irena lived through the best period. The overflowing streets were
not able to contain all the Jews and that called for the construction of new
streets. The Jewish contractors bought sites on the Bank street and built
houses there. The same thing also happened on Warshavsky street. There it was
mainly businesses that were constructed. The banks played a very important role
in the development of Irena and these banks were directed by Jews.
Whereas Irena was a center of Jewish population, the need was created for
organizing a religious life that was local. To this task, with the support of
the Jewish community, a synagogue was built on Okulna street as well as a bath
nearby. After the building of the synagogue the community brought a Rabbi,
Rabbi Emanuel Gershon Rabinovitch, who was very wise with a distinguished
education and an exceptional intelligence. With his authority he gave the the
tone that established good relations between the Jews and the Polish
population. But about that, a little later.
Rabbi Emanuel Rabinovitch, with the help of the Hasidim, directed the religious
life of all the Jews. With the help of the Hasidim, he obtained from the chief
of the regiment that was stationed there, an exchange of money for food, so
that the Jewish soldiers could eat from kosher Jewish homes. Most of the
yeshiva students profited from this arrangement. Everyday they went from the
regiment into town to eat at the houses of Jews.
In the regiment, which was stationed at Demblin, Jews were employed. Rabbi
Rabinovitch had influence over them. On important holidays the Jewish soldiers
marched in rows into synagogue to pray. On Passover and Succoth, the Jewish
soldiers went everyday to eat as a religious obligation. Each regiment had its
Jewish soldiers sent under the supervision of a non-commissioned officer. Over
all of them a special officer was assigned who was the delegate from the
Rabbi Rabinovitch received this official delegate at his house and the soldiers
were well received by the Jewish community.
Each year the Rabbi gave the oath to the soldiers. After the giving of the
oath, the Rabbi, with the religious representatives of other religions, was the
guest of the regiment. More than once you could see a military Chaplain having
a very cordial talk with the Rabbi. If the Rabbi, on occasion, didn't have his
own carriage, he was often invited to ride along with the Chaplain who would
drive back to town in his automobile.
Matters of Health
In Irena there wasn't an organized service for the sick. There were only
hospitals in bigger towns. If there was a real need for that kind of care the
Jews from Irena went to Jewish hospitals in Warsaw and Radom. Quicker help for
the population was provided by private doctors: Kornelshtein and the healer
Vanapol. The dentists, Dr. Parisova, Chana Vanapol and the technical-dentists,
Ahron and Natan Vanapol.
Since the population strictly observed religious laws, they only would eat meat
that was slaughtered in the proper way by a ritual butcher. The supervision of
the religious slaughter was conducted by the veterinarian, Kalman Paris.
The Jewish doctors, in general, were esteemed by the Polish population as well.
Especially honored was the service of the Vanapol family, even now you can hear
among the people from the old generation, very, very high praise for the
healing abilities and medical help that they gave to the sick.
Education and Culture
Until Poland's independence, the Jewish children studied almost exclusively in
heders, not in public schools. At the beginning of the period when compulsory
education was introduced, Jewish children went to the Poveschechne
school, together with Polish children.
[See PHOT-A14 at the end of Section A]
After finishing public school, a lot of the Jewish children studied further in
the city high school, together with Polish youth.
From that time when Poland received its independence, the activity of the
schools in Irena developed quickly. One school wasn't able to take care of all
of the students. They had to open school number two on Warshavsky street, and
soon after, a high school.
In the public school, the Jewish children who wished, were allowed to take
Saturday off. But not in the high school. The administration there, because
each day required some special study to take place, would not allow them that
kind of leeway. It's not possible after so many years to list all of the Jewish
children in the high school. I'll just list a few of them: Shlome Shtern
a son of a poor widow, Lena Shtern, Chana Shteinbuch, a daughter of the
Pinkuses, who lives to day in Germany, and Perla Ekheiser, the daughter of Reb
Yosef. The last person finished her high school education in secret with the
help of Professor Peshvilska.
A cultural life besides the movies hardly didn't exist. There were two movie
theaters, Lotnik, and the one in the fortress. There were 3 active
days in the week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Fridays, most of the Jewish
children would come, although also on other days they would come a great deal
as well. Not long before the beginning of the War, a new cinema was built on
Warshavsky street and it was a partnership between the Jews and Poles. The
movie theater, Irena, outlived the War, and is used by the population until
The development of Irena, the need of the businessmen and of the Jewish
population, brought forth a need to create banks where one could locate capital
as well as in time of special need, get credit. To this task, on the Bank
street [Bankova], a bank building was built. Money for the bank was raised
through an action committee, the bank director was Yozef.
In the first years when the business climate was favorable the banks were a
very beneficial part of commerce. And the people who were in the bank
committee, who had founded it, did very well for themselves. It wasn't however
capable of serving the whole population and so a cooperative bank was founded
on Warshavsky street in the house of Zjelechovsky. It's name alone demonstrated
that it was a bank of shareholder members. The director of the bank was the
lawyer Kannaryenfogel. To the directorship belonged Teichman, Ehjeiser, Yosef
Shulman, Freyis and Weinberg.
The cooperative bank showed itself to be a very useful institution, not only
for the Jewish population, but also for the Polish.
The cooperative bank conducted useful work until the outbreak of the Second
The development of Irena and the founding of various institutions, meant that
there was an increased need to develop the lines of communication with the
national administration. It called forth the need for a judicial bureau. To
this task were assigned 2 officers for judicial consultation which were
directed by the lawyer Kannaryenfogel who was also the President of the
cooperative bank and by Yaacov Ekheiser, together with Joseph Ehkeiser.
The Jewish community was also active and it also took a part in giving judicial
advice. The Jewish population didn't go eagerly into the Polish court system.
So all legal disputes which were among Jews were heard by the Jewish council
and if the council wasn't able to bring the two sides to an agreement, it went
to a religious court. The person who stood in judgment there was Joseph
Ekheiser. A judgment from the Jewish court was one that no Jew could violate,
whether he won or lost. With a decision from a religious court, he had to make
his peace with it. But the legal disputes between Jews and Poles were dealt
with through the State court system. The closest was in Pulaw because Irena
belonged to the Pulaw district.
Industry, Crafts and Trade
Branches of industries like these were in Jewish hands: banking, a beer brewery
where liquor was poured into bottles, a factory of soda water, a sawmill,
tailor workshops, shoe workshops, a special boot workshop, blacksmiths,
locksmiths and carpenters.
Most of the commerce was in Jewish hands except for the pharmacy, the
pharmaceutical warehouse, a store with hard liquor, writing supplies, a tobacco
warehouse, stores where pork flesh was sold and one cooperative food store. In
the last years there were 2 or 3 colonial stores set up. There was also one
restaurant in Polish hands.
Other services that Jews supplied included hairdressers, teamsters, cab drivers
Eighty percent of the hair dressers were Jewish. Some of them were on Jewish
streets, like Rynek and Okulna. The biggest part of them were on Warshavsky
street and served Poles.
The development of industry and trade couldn't have been successful without the
development of transportation. A class of teamsters was established. They were
very, very necessary, because Irena was 3 kilometers from the train station.
From the loading point on the Vistula, it was 2.5 kilometers away.
Since the teamsters couldn't do all the required work by themselves, they hired
workers to load and unload merchandise. These workers, with time, developed
into skilled porters.
Besides teamsters, the cab drivers served the population, 90% of them were
From the ranks of the businessmen and the industrialists I will mention and
list only those who one remembers until today.
Businessmen who dealt in food stuffs Adelman who had a food
warehouse; Tschatshkes who had a store of food; Melitzkevitch who
had a food store. The owners were well known for their fair way of doing
business and the quality of their merchandise.
A store where iron products were sold belonged to Rozen and Mendel Rozenberg.
The latter had a wholesale business and supplied all of the institutions in
Demblin. He was the supplier for the military. There were 2 smaller stores
where iron products were sold, on Okulna street and on Rynek.
Manufacturing sites also belonged to Zjelechovsky and Rueben. There were also
smaller ones where on normal days the trade took place within a store, and on
days of the big market, they would set out their wares on the Rynek. With their
straganes [wares or garments] they also traveled to Gniveshov on market day.
And on Thursdays they went to Ryki. The trade in straganes was spread over
between the branches of clothes and shoes.
Among the well known firms, Teichman's store of radio and electric tools should
be noted; the furniture store of Price; the watch store of Shulman. There were
also a variety of different stores where shoes were sold, hats, where there was
business in grain, in vegetables and fruits, in paint, in fowl, milk products,
bicycles, tools, soda water and sweets.
There were also 2 lumber yards where building materials were sold. One was run
by Rueben Yosef and Rozeman on Warshavsky street, and the second on Sochotzky
street belonged to Sheinzicht. The sawmill on Bank street belonged to Rozenman.
The beer factory and representing the Haberbush firm was Kamiyan. His warehouse
was on the Bank street. The 2 soda factories belonged to Weinburg and Gilibter.
They served practically the whole population of the town.
Well known and esteemed because of their courteous service, tasty gefilte fish
and other delicacies were the taverns of Luxemberg on Warshavsky street and
Beckerblut on Rynek. A specialty of Luxemberg's tavern was the Fish-Machlim
[fish delicacy], cooked in the Jewish fashion, and Beckerblut's tavern was well
known for its wonderful cooked goose and god beer. The taverns were frequently
sought out by those who loved good food, Jews as well as gentiles. Every day
except for Sabbath, the taverns were overflowing with guests.
In Irena there were 4 Jewish bakeries which serviced the Jewish population with
a variety of different kinds of breads, challahs, bagels, pretzels and sweets.
The bakery of Natan Kaminsky, on Warshavsky street baked almost exclusively for
the Poles, although the bakery of Kaminsky's son, on Okulna street, baked for
everybody. Bread was also made at Shtamler's bakery on Okulna and Krinchaltz'
on Rynek and also at Feldfeders.
The trade in cattle flesh was completely in the hands of the Jews. Butcher
stores were run by Korman and Adelshtein on Warshavsky street, Rechtman on
Rynek and Puterflan on Senatoske street.
A supplier of many meats to the military for many years and of hay, especially
for the 15
Infantry Regiment, was Pinchas Steinbuch; a supplier for the military hospital
was Lena Shtern, she furnished calf meat, butter, eggs, honey and cheese.
The sale of State lottery tickets was conducted by Yosef Nai, who lives today
Tailor shops were 90% in Jewish hands. The well known tailors were Luxemberg on
Warshavsky street who was a master tailor with a diploma from Paris. The
highest measure of elegance was an outfit made by Luxemberg. That's why really
almost all of the officers and non-commissioned officers had their uniform
jackets and trousers sewn by the Luxemberg firm. The young and less well paid
non-commissioned officers had their uniforms made by Moshe Danovitch and
others. Besides these, there were also tailor shops run by Hertzky, Borkovitch,
Lindover, Rosentzweig, Katcke and Europa.
Rosentzweig and Europa, at the same time, dealt in finished clothes. In the
selling of already completed garments, other people also took part. And that
included people who didn't have their own shops but put their garments out for
sale at the markets. These took place on Wednesday in Irena, and Thursday in
Ryki. The same was true for shoes and for hats and wash and bedding.
Among the shoemakers one can count Adelshtein and Choleva. They made shoes
according to order and measurement. Other shoemakers made shoes which they
simply then sold at the market.
With the passage of 25 years, it's not possible without the relevant documents
to list all of the Jewish families and their names. The names have vanished
from memory. All the documents were destroyed in the time of the War.
Of the families which lived in Irena, one should list the following: the singer
Borenshtein, Federbush, Zilberman, Rubenstein, Laibruder, Friedman, Ainshidler,
Tzuker, Goldberg, Kaminsky's son Yitzhak and daughter Poyle.
Until the year 1936, the growth of the population was rapid. Over a hundred
births a year, and that's while the mortality rate was small, about 20 people a
The Count of Jews becomes smaller
Despite the great increase and the low mortality rate, the number of Jews
diminished. In 1938 they were 46% of the overall population: from 4,500 in 1936
to 4,000 in 1938. The reason for the reduction of the Jewish population must be
sought in emigration to bigger cities where it was easier to get work and make
better wages or where the general business climate was more favorable. As an
example I can site Europa, despite the fact that he had several houses in
Irena, he went to Warsaw, and there he bought a house and conducted a business
on the Elektoralna street. I mean that in the emigration to other cities,
Europa was not just a lone individual, there were many others who did the same
Jews took an active role in the life of the town. They were council members and
the village magistrate position was held for many years by David Rubinshtein.
In the time of ever growing fascism in the country and the arrival of the
plague of Hitlerism in Germany, there wasn't the least persecution of Jews in
Irena. The business and life in general went on very quietly. The population
worked and earned, not anticipating that from the west, a black cloud was
approaching. The day neared of the outbreak of the Second World War.
Zayejeje, December 2, 1966
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